Zuma to remain ANC choice for president: Motlanthe

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa's ruling ANC will keep Jacob Zuma as its presidential candidate in this year's election even if a court ruling dismissing graft charges against him is overturned, the country's president has said.

A South African court will on Monday hand down judgement on an appeal by prosecutors against a decision to throw out bribery, fraud and other charges against Zuma in September which suggested there was high-level political meddling in the case.

Re-opening the case could hurt ANC president Zuma’s image and almost certainly overlap with his campaign for the presidency in a general election expected around March or April.

It would also create political uncertainty in Africa’s biggest economy and make investors uneasy.

In an interview with South Africa’s Mail & Guardian, South African President Kgalema Motlanthe said the African National Congress (ANC) would stick by Zuma.

He said that if the ruling is overturned, "whatever happens thereafter must run its course even if he is charged".

"He remains the ANC’s contender for presidency of the country in this year’s elections," Motlanthe added.

Zuma is prepared to negotiate with prosecutors if the Supreme Court of Appeal rules the charges against him must stand, The Star newspaper reported on Friday.

It said Zuma’s lawyers had spent months in talks with the National Prosecuting Authority in case the court rules against him. 

The prosecution of Zuma, frontrunner to become state president, has divided the ANC and led to the removal of former President Thabo Mbeki, who was accused of interfering in the case, an allegation he denied.

If the court decides Zuma’s case should be re-opened it could give political ammunition to a new breakaway party led by Mbeki loyalists challenging the ANC’s dominance of South African politics since the end of apartheid in 1994.